A New Hampshire police sergeant is at the center of a controversy for accepting a $2.7 million inheritance from an elderly woman he met while on duty.
“The case has set off debates in Portsmouth, N.H., over police policies covering gifts,” NPR reported.
Sgt. Aaron Goodwin reportedly met Geraldine Webber in 2010 when he was investigating a potential crime. He then became friends with her and “offered assistance with medical issues and other household responsibilities,” Jason Schreiber of the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
After meeting Goodwin, Webber changed her will and left him her house, stocks and bonds, as well as a Cadillac.
A review panel said Goodwin, according to department rules, should have either turned down the inheritance or resigned from the police department. But the panel also found that the officer appeared to have acted out of the kindness of his heart.
Some of the organizations that would have received gifts in the previous will are contesting the revised will, alleging that Webber, who was in her 90s, had dementia when she died in 2012.
In one hearing, Goodwin testified that he did help Webber find a new estate lawyer.
My eyebrows are definitely raised.
Do you think the officer should have accepted the bequest? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. Put “Goodwill Gestures” in the subject line.
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Della Curry, who had worked as a kitchen manager at an elementary school in Colorado, was fired after breaking the rules and feeding hungry children, The Root reported.
In an interview on the local CBS station, Curry said: “I had a first-grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn’t have enough money for lunch. Yes, I gave her lunch. I’ll own that I broke the law. The law needs to change.”
Curry told the station she would often pay for lunches out of her own pocket for students who didn’t qualify for the free lunch program. Some had simply forgotten their lunch or said they still couldn’t afford to buy a meal.
With each new cyberattack on various corporate or government databases, we have to accept the fact that our personal information can’t be kept safe.
Last week, the Internal Revenue Service said hackers, most likely from a criminal network, were able to get into an information database that taxpayers use to access their past returns. The personal information of more than 100,000 taxpayers was compromised.
This week, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration told lawmakers that the IRS had not put in place security upgrades that could have made it harder for hackers to gain access to its system, reported The Washington Post’s Lisa Rein.
Thieves accessed the IRS system called “Get Transcript.” Using taxpayers’ Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and tax filing statuses, they were able to submit fraudulent tax returns, Rein reports. About 13,000 of these fraudulent returns were processed this tax season, costing the government $39 million.
For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: How safe do you feel about your personal data?
“I don’t feel safe At All,” wrote Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria, Va. “I was a victim of identity theft, and someone used my information to try and file taxes fraudulently. What I hate most is the state seems to be helping them because, even though they caught it and didn’t let the thief get a refund, they refused to give me a copy of what was submitted fraudulently so that I could get the employer and banking info used and report it to the police. The state says it would be a ‘violation of the person’s privacy.’ A violation of the THIEF’s privacy?! On what planet does that make sense? This technology age is terrible for that very reason. We are not legally, governmentally or socially ready for the massive amount of crime that comes with it. And the ones who are hurt the most are the victims because we have very little recourse for justice and the pain and turmoil of trying to recover is long and tedious at best.”
Bill Klett of Fairfax Station, Va., wrote: “It would be foolish to think that any data is safe. We area all dependent on the company or organization where our personal data is stored to have the latest firewalls, etc., to protect their systems and, of course, our data. As we have all seen, even the Pentagon, Target, IRS, Home Depot and others are subject to attacks. Best solution is to assume the data is NOT safe and act accordingly.”
Some people have found their own way to thwart identity thieves.
“The IRS hacking crime is an example of precisely why I have never opened a Facebook account and likely never will,” wrote Thomas J. Druitt of Paducah, Ky., who frequently responds to the Color of Money Question of the Week. “I also never use anything but a credit card with a relatively low credit limit for on-line purchases, and quite frankly avoid on-line transactions completely if there is a brick-and-mortar store outlet within easy driving distance. The fact is that no one can be completely trusted to be smarter than the cyber thieves, as the IRS case illustrates. I guess I should add that I file my taxes the old-fashioned way with paper forms and the U.S. mail for the same reasons.”
One reader wrote: “A wise person once commented to me that the computer setting up the security questions will not know if you are providing the correct name for your second cousin twice removed, or rather the name of your favorite rock star or your last name spelled backwards. If you give a wrong answer you can remember, it will make it much harder for someone to discover the answer through network research.”
And from another victim: “I am completely insecure about this issue. Many years ago, my husband was the victim of data theft twice, and this was well before widespread use of the Internet. More recently, I have had at least two credit card breaches and have been the recipient of numerous letters informing me that my personal information may have been compromised. Even though I take precautions such as covering my ATM pin, shredding sensitive documents, etc., I feel that I am wasting my time, as so much of my personal information seems to be available to third parties who do not protect it at all.”
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.